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Review: One for the Money (2012)

One for the Money (2012)

Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson

Premise: An unemployed woman takes a job as a bail bondsman and is assigned to bring in an ex-boyfriend.

What Works: One for the Money is generally at its best in the scenes between main character Stephanie Plum and her family, especially the grandmother played by Debbie Reynolds. The banter between her family members is funny although it contrasts greatly with the tone of the rest of the film.

What Doesn’t: One for the Money is the second attempt at adapting the book by Janet Evanovich, the first being a made-for-television picture originally broadcast in 2002. Although this new version of One for the Money has the backing of a major studio and a recognizable star in the lead role, the film still looks like a television production, and a cheap production at that. Even compared to primetime television shows, One for the Money looks less like crime dramas such as CSI or Law and Order and much more like sitcoms like Seinfeld or Friends, although it isn’t as funny as those programs. The sets aren’t convincing, many scenes are shot and lit with television sensibilities, and a lot of the characters have sitcom dimensions.  The lack of production value negatively impacts the rest of the film. This is supposed to be a detective story about a police officer who may have been framed for murder but it is hard to take the film seriously when it consistently looks like something that should be airing in twenty-eight minute installments on network television. Aside from being a cheap cinematic product, One for the Money has a lot of problems with its script. There are just too many scenes that are stupid or unbelievable. The premise of One for the Money, that a department store employee would become a bounty hunter, is itself silly but that is actually the least of this film’s story problems. The main character steals a car, carries a handgun without a license, shelters a fugitive (the same man she is supposed to bring in), and is involved in car bombs and shoot outs but the police never seem concerned and despite the violence there is no sense of rising action. The mystery isn’t well handled either; at no point to does the film even flirt with the possibility that the fugitive is guilty and so the filmmakers are consistently behind the audience instead of ahead of them, working toward a climax that the audience sees coming from the opening. There is also a love story in One for the Money and on that count this film is remarkably similar to 2010’s The Bounty Hunter, although the romantic tension between Katherine Heigl and Jason O’Mara is nonexistent. Lastly, One for the Money suffers from casting Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum. The character is a working class Italian from New Jersey but Heigl’s accent comes in out and the actor’s glamorous movie star status works against the illusion, like Jesse Eisenberg as a pizza delivery man in 30 Minutes or Less or Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in The World is Not Enough. If the filmmakers had actually taken a risk and cast someone less Hollywood, the film might have at least been interesting and even credible. But it doesn’t do that and the movie is overall very dull.

Bottom Line: One for the Money features a miscast actor in a lousy production with a bad script. Although this is clearly an attempt to launch a film series, it might be best to wait another ten years and try rebooting this series again.

Episode: #375 (February 12, 2012)